The plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Weyerhaeuser Co. pension fund were dealt a setback when the U.S District Court for Western Washington ruled that the participants had no standing to sue for monetary damages.
Judge Robert Lanik ruled that the participants in the defined benefits plan who filed the suit have standing to collect equitable relief, but not to collect damages. The suit, filed in 2011, alleged that fund managers breached their fiduciary duty by investing in alternative financial vehicles, including hedge funds.
Lanik found the plaintiffs could not show that the alleged misconduct caused them to suffer individual loss.
The suit claims the managers gambled to increase the forest-products company’s bottom line, rather than that of the pension fund. The result, the suit says, was a fund with a $450 million deficit that started out $2.1 billion in the black.
The lawsuit, filed by Michael Palmason on behalf of all others, claims more than 81 percent of the plan’s assets were placed in alternative investments. It says such investments are inherently risky and unusual.
Fund managers, the suit says, magnified the portfolio’s risk with the purchase of derivative. The suit also claims the administrators knew or should have known the risks associated with the alternative investments.
In a motion for dismissal filed in 2011, company argued that the plaintiffs failed to show that anyone was not paid benefits they were due. It also said that for years the plan’s investments generated returns above comparable funds.
The motion also noted that ERISA allows pension funds to employ a range of investment vehicles and that none used by the managers was outside what is allowed.